Interview: Jeff Garlin, comedian, 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' (REWIND)
(Originally Broadcast September 14, 2007) Today is a great day to be Jeff Garlin. And for him, tomorrow will probably be an even better day.
The sixth season of the hugely popular and hysterically funny HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” starring Larry David and co-starring Garlin, is now underway.
But even better, I suspect, for Garlin is that his first movie as writer, director, and star, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, opened on September 5.
The New York Times greeted Garlin’s Cheese this way: laid back and affectionate, Cheese is the movie version of a dear friend you could spend all day with.
Not bad for a guy from Chicago.
• • •
BOB ANDELMAN/Mr. MEDIA: Jeff, there’s a moment in one of the season’s new episodes where you confess to a — I gotta get right to this — to a moment of intimacy with a blanket in Larry’s house during Passover.
GARLIN: Oh, you saw that one?
ANDELMAN: Yes, I did. And I want to ask you the new rules of Judaism that you set forth there and will probably go over big with America’s rabbis, don’t you think?
GARLIN: Oh, I think they’re all gonna participate.
ANDELMAN: But it did kind of bring to mind, are there or have there been any lines that can’t be crossed on a show like this?
GARLIN: There’s a line. If it’s not funny, that’s the line that can’t be crossed.
ANDELMAN: Fair enough.
GARLIN: If it’s funny then it’s fine.
ANDELMAN: Judaism comes up quite a bit I guess. I don’t want to give it away obviously, but this had to be Judaism’s finest moment on the show I think.
GARLIN: One of them. We certainly did get a lot of feedback from the Orthodox episode. Yeah, so, the big vagina episode as they say.
ANDELMAN: You and Larry go back many years as stand-up comics. I wondered, though, of all the guys who could’ve been Larry’s foil on the show, how did your involvement in Curb come about?
GARLIN: Well, I approached him about it. We were having lunch, and I told him an idea that I had for an HBO special which ended up being “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” So I approached him. I wasn’t gonna be in it. He insisted I play his manager, and he insisted that I be an executive producer with him. I hadn’t planned on that.
ANDELMAN: Wow. Executive producer seems to be the least of what you should get out of that idea.
GARLIN: Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s pretty exciting.
ANDELMAN: Worked out pretty well. How are you able to mix friendship and business so well?
GARLIN: When you’re working with comedians, when we work together, that line is always crossed. With comedians, there is no sort of business/friendship thing. If you’re friendly, you got a chance. But it’s much better to work with friends to be honest with you. I enjoy it.
ANDELMAN: Now when you had the idea for the show, was the idea of the agent part of the original idea?
GARLIN: No, no. I assumed there probably would’ve been an agent or something like that. It was all part of the gist. The idea was to see the behind-the-scenes life of a comedian during the making of an HBO special.
ANDELMAN: And that was the special that essentially wound up as the pilot for the series.
ANDELMAN: When did you realize that you were going to be an integral part of what was to come?
GARLIN: From the get-go. From the get-go. When we were developing it, it was clear that this was going to be something integral to the show. But we had no idea it was gonna become a TV series.
GARLIN: So that caught me by surprise, too.
ANDELMAN: Were either of you hesitant to commit to a series like that when that came up?
GARLIN: Not hesitant at all. As a matter of fact, when we were filming the first hour pilot thing, we were saying how much fun it would be if we could ever do this as a series, not thinking that that was even a possibility or gonna happen. I know HBO was after Larry to do a series, and it worked out well.
ANDELMAN: Last year, a lot of people seemed to think, and I don’t know that there was any great announcement, but a lot of people seemed to think that that was the last season of the show. Here you are back this year.
GARLIN: That was supposed to be the last season of the show, yes. I knew there was a very small chance we’d do another one, and Larry called me up and asked me, and I said, “Yeah, I’ll do another one.”
ANDELMAN: What was the reason for ending it at the time?
GARLIN: We’ve been doing it a long time. You kind of don’t want to repeat yourself. I would say the single biggest reason for “Curb” ’s success is it’s not beholden to money. We’re all professionals who want to get paid, but Larry David is so rich that he doesn’t have to keep doing the show to earn a living or pay off his lifestyle. So the only reason we continue it is out of pride in terms of, if he has a great idea, then we keep going.
ANDELMAN: You’re an executive producer. Can you say whether this show will continue past this season?
GARLIN: I don’t think it will, but there’s a chance. Who knows. When we talked about it before, he wasn’t getting divorced. So I don’t know how that’ll change things.
ANDELMAN: So maybe he’ll have more free time.
GARLIN: That’s exactly what I was thinking, but I still think it’s probably gonna be our last.
ANDELMAN: Okay. You do think it will be the last.
GARLIN: I do think it’ll be the last, yes.
ANDELMAN: Could you and Larry ever take this dynamic that we see on TV, could you ever take that on the road for a stand-up tour?
GARLIN: Well, I am doing a tour with Susie Essman who plays my wife.
GARLIN: Yeah. I’m going on the road with her and Richard Lewis. So yes is the answer, but it will not be with Larry.
ANDELMAN: When does that tour start?
GARLIN: Our first gig, I think, is September 25. We’re playing Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
ANDELMAN: On the show, of course, you play Larry’s manager, Jeff Greene. But what is your manager like?
GARLIN: My manager is David Miner at 3 Arts Entertainment, and he’s one of the kindest, best people you could ever hope to work with. And he is just a great, great person and a great, great manager and nothing like the scumbag Jeff Greene.
ANDELMAN: Is Jeff a scumbag? I thought he was the…
GARLIN: A total scumbag. A total scumbag.
ANDELMAN: I would’ve never described him that way.
GARLIN: I play him, and I’m telling ya, he’s a scumbag.
ANDELMAN: Listen. Over the summer, I picked up, at a bookstore in Buffalo, I had one night there, and I picked up a book. It’s the Curb Your Enthusiasm book, big yellow book.
ANDELMAN: I hate to tell ya what I paid for it. It was on the closeout shelf.
GARLIN: It did well when it wasn’t on the close-out shelf, and I would’ve liked to have bought some copies from the close-out shelf.
ANDELMAN: I can tell ya that this store in the Buffalo mall has some. The book is real handy because it takes that basic concept that I guess Larry wrote for each episode, and then there’re comments from cast members about the improv and the unexpected things. I wondered, as you look back on the show now into the sixth season, do you have an improv moment of your own that really stands out?
GARLIN: Yeah. One of my favorites is — and I do one this coming season that I can’t talk about — when Larry and I are looking in my daughter’s room for the doll’s head, and the shelf comes down. And the shelf was not supposed to come down. It just did, and I kept on going. I didn’t stop obviously, and I told my wife that I’d been having nightmares about the shelf, and I knew it would fall. And lo and behold, here I am, and it falls. I thought that was pretty funny.
ANDELMAN: It was a great moment. That episode was terrific about the dolls.
Now I want to talk about your movie.
GARLIN: I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With.
ANDELMAN: Yes. It’s a great title. What inspired it?
GARLIN: Actually, Larry David hates the title, by the way, because it ends in a preposition. He thinks that you can’t do that. “No, you can’t end in a preposition.” But the title came from, I was having lunch with a friend of mine’s girlfriend at the Museum of Natural History, and we’re talking about relationships and what we’re looking for. And I said what I was looking for and then I said. “What are you looking for?” And she said, “I want this, I want that, I want someone to eat cheese with.” And I went, “That’s it! That’s so great. That’s so simple. I get that, and I’m gonna use that as a title someday if you don’t mind.”
ANDELMAN: It’s a very memorable title, and I don’t know what Larry would’ve expected, “I Want Someone With Whom to Eat Cheese”?
GARLIN: Yes. That’s what he wanted to change to.
ANDELMAN: Were you more brave or crazy to write, direct, and star in the movie?
GARLIN: I definitely wasn’t brave, maybe crazy. But write, direct, and star, that’s easy. Producing is the crazy part. Producing is the brave part because that’s the hardest job there is. Producers do all the crap that nobody else wants to do.
ANDELMAN: Well, that’s true, but producers, their faces aren’t out front there when the product comes out.
GARLIN: Yeah, but if you believe in the product… I hate calling it my independent film product. I’ve done movies that are pure product, if you will. But you just do the best you can no matter what situation. If it’s something like, for me, something I wrote and directed and I act in, I’m obviously passionate about it, and I have no fear of being out in front of the public with it because I controlled it.
ANDELMAN: Were you nervous to see those first reviews come in?
GARLIN: I actually read them by accident because I really planned and I still plan, I don’t want to really read reviews anymore. I got a rave from the New York Times, and I’m good.
ANDELMAN: Yeah, that was something, and it was kind of buried inside. And I saw it last night, and I thought, oh my God, look at that. Wow.
GARLIN: Yeah, that’s what I said. “Oh my God, look at that.” Those were my exact words.
ANDELMAN: I was very happy for you and for me that it was a good review because I don’t know how it would’ve been to bring it up if they had slammed the movie.
GARLIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now I don’t think anybody’s gonna slam the movie. I think some people might not be crazy about it, think oh, it’s okay. So that’s cool. They’ll say it’s okay, or they’re gonna love it. I think it’s a good movie, and I don’t think there’s anything in there that’s false or hackneyed like you might see in other movies where it frustrates a reviewer. But they might not love it.
ANDELMAN: It looks like, from the cast, that you borrowed a couple of women from Denis Leary’s “Rescue Me” – Amy Sedaris and Gina Gershon.
GARLIN: I don’t know that I borrowed them from “Rescue Me.” They did that after I worked with them, but he borrowed them from me.
ANDELMAN: Any good Sarah Silverman stories from the set?
ANDELMAN: Oh, come on.
GARLIN: I’d like to be able to say oh yes, this or that. No, she’s beautiful and she’s funny and she’s just a great actress and so, no, I was lucky to have her.
ANDELMAN: Did you film this before or after the first season of her TV show?
ANDELMAN: Oh, before.
GARLIN: I wrote the part for her, and I filmed it long before she was the Sarah Silverman we know today.
ANDELMAN: How do you think, if at all, the film will change your career? You said in the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” book that, thanks to “Curb,” you know you’ll always have a career. But do you think this will change?
GARLIN: Not the way “Curb” has. It will not change my career, no, but it helps legitimize me as a film director which is what I aspire. If you tell me the rest of my life I’d never act, never do anything but write and direct films and do stand-up, I’d be thrilled.
ANDELMAN: I have one more question for you, Jeff. I have to ask: How, how did you miss out on the Daddy Daycare sequel?
GARLIN: They didn’t offer me enough money. That’s the reason I didn’t do it. I don’t care how crappy it was, I would’ve been more than happy to do it. I love Cuba. He’s a great guy. I would’ve loved to have worked with him. Fred Savage is a great guy. So it would’ve been a nice experience even though it wasn’t the greatest movie. But they didn’t offer me enough money, and when you’re doing something that’s now that’s a piece of product, you’re doing something that’s a product. I need to be paid correctly, and I was not offered the right money. We went back and forth, and so we couldn’t agree on money. So I didn’t do it, and I’ve never gotten reviews that wonderful, ever, for anything because I was singled out in every review as being smart for not doing it.
ANDELMAN: That’s why I wanted to ask you about it. You were certainly smart to have done the first one. It was a fun…
GARLIN: I got to work with Eddie Murphy, my God. What an honor.
ANDELMAN: Yeah. Well, you lucked out on that. I think not getting the money you wanted was probably God’s way of saying, “Move on.”
GARLIN: That’s what I’m saying. I’ve got a wife and kids so if you want to pay me the money, I’ll act in any crappy movie. I don’t care. But if you’re not gonna pay me… So it worked out the way it was supposed to. My kids were disappointed because they wanted me to do it, and my wife kind of wanted me to do it. But no, no thank you.
GARLIN: If we’re gonna do crap, I gotta be able to build a pool afterwards.
ANDELMAN: More rules. See, this is just like a moment of “Curb.” We’re learning more rules for living here.
GARLIN: Yeah. Well, that’s my rule.
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